First results from Cassini’s dives between Saturn and its rings

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The first results from Cassini’s weekly dives between Saturn and its innermost rings have now been released.

The big surprise so far is the lack of a tilt to Saturn’s magnetic field.

Based on data collected by Cassini’s magnetometer instrument, Saturn’s magnetic field appears to be surprisingly well-aligned with the planet’s rotation axis. The tilt is much smaller than 0.06 degrees — which is the lower limit the spacecraft’s magnetometer data placed on the value prior to the start of the Grand Finale.

This observation is at odds with scientists’ theoretical understanding of how magnetic fields are generated. Planetary magnetic fields are understood to require some degree of tilt to sustain currents flowing through the liquid metal deep inside the planets (in Saturn’s case, thought to be liquid metallic hydrogen). With no tilt, the currents would eventually subside and the field would disappear.

Any tilt to the magnetic field would make the daily wobble of the planet’s deep interior observable, thus revealing the true length of Saturn’s day, which has so far proven elusive.

They also have gotten lots of much better images of the planet’s cloud tops.



  • Judy

    You mean they’re not going to “adjust” the data to correspond with the theory? :)

  • eddie willers

    You mean they’re not going to “adjust” the data to correspond with the theory? :)

    Their isn’t a climate “scientist” within 746 million miles of Saturn, so the data is safe.

  • Joe

    Bueatiful images from cassinis camera, good science creates more questions than it answers sometimes, versus proclamations that come from “climate scientist”.

  • LocalFluff

    Magnetic fields seems to be one of the hardest topics in astrophysics. When an astronomer proudly
    explains her model of almost any phenomena, it is jokingly considered impolite to ask:
    “- Did you factor in magnetic fields?”

    Dave Stevenson gives an overview on magnetic fields in the Solar System:

  • LocalFluff

    Even with exact information about a planet’s mass, composition, rotation, temperature there is no way to conclude whether it has a magnetic field or not. Jupiter and Earth’s magnetic fields have surprising similarities, such as the same orientation relative to their spin axes and the same field intensity something. But Earth’s twin Venus has no magnetic field at all!

    One of Juno’s science goals is to determine Jupiter’s deep structure. That might be a goal they don’t reach, and not because of any instrument failure. But they are probably referring to the upper part of the atmosphere.

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